Tim Carter and Gina Ray: Opposing Views on Common Core

On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, the Mingus Mountain Republican Club featured two speakers on Common Core: Tim Carter was recently appointed by Governor Ducey to the Arizona State Board of Education.  He is also the Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools (up for reelection in 2016).  He is on record in support of the Common Core standards.  See Yavapai County school superintendent gets districts ready for common core standards.  

Gina Ray is the Chandler mother of 4 children.  All of her children attend Arizona’s public schools.  Ms. Ray is a former Montessori teacher who was originally for the Common Core standards and high stakes testing, until she educated herself on them. 

Mr. Carter spoke first, stating that his presentation would be “Common Core 101.”

He noted that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does the federal government have the authority to establish national standards.  (This is true.  However, his  implication appeared to be that the federal government did not establish the Common Core national standards.)

GW NOTE:  Former Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), Robert S. Eitel, and former Chief Legal Adviser to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Kent D. Talbert, assert that the federal government “has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.”  See The Road to a National Curriculum:  The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers.      

Mr. Carter stated that the adoption of Arizona’s K-12 Academic Standards and Assessment lie exclusively with the Arizona State Board of Education (SBE).  He provided a few hand-outs that included relevant Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) that identify the SBE’s powers and duties.  He also noted that it’s the job of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to implement the policies set forth by the SBE.  He noted that, as the Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools, he has many powers as identified in the ARS.  Yet, County Superintendents must also implement the policies of the State Board of Education.  (Emphasis added) See ARS 15-203, ARS 15-701ARS 15-251  , and ARS 15-302

He asserted that Diane Douglas, the current Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, stated during her campaign that she would “delete” Common Core.  He stated that she doesn’t have this power.  The SBE has this power.  Her job is to implement the policies of the SBE. 

GW NOTE:  Ms. Douglas never stated that she would delete/remove/get rid of Common Core.  She campaigned against Common Core and promised to fight against it, but she was always clear that she had limited power to eliminate Common Core. 

Mr. Carter stated that it doesn’t matter where the Common Core standards came from. 

He emphasized that the implementation of the standards is up to local school boards, and he asserted that “local control is alive and well in Arizona.”  He stated that local school boards determine the curriculum.  Teachers teach to the standards.  Just to the standards.  He suggested that we go to our local school boards if we have questions about the curriculum, or what they are teaching. 

In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Carter provided what he believed to be a good example of “local control.”  The Vail School District in Tucson designed an online program called Beyond Textbooks, which has been adopted by over 90 Arizona schools and school districts. 

GW NOTEBeyond Textbooks is an atrocious example, because parents and citizens are prohibited from seeing any of the materials, unless they make an appointment with a teacher regarding a specific lesson.  This practice most likely is a violation of ARS 15-721(F)(3) which requires that school boards “make available at the school district office for review by the public, for a period of sixty days prior to formal selection of textbooks, a copy of each textbook that is being considered for selection.”  The definition of a “textbook” is extensive, and it includes digital materials.  See Is the Use of Beyond Textbooks Violating Arizona Law? You be the Judge.  

Mr. Carter stated that most people haven’t read the Common Core Standards and don’t know the difference between standards and assessment.  He urged everyone to read the Standards before criticizing them. 

Mr. Carter indicated that his first action as a newly appointed member of the Arizona State Board of Education was to recommend a policy and process to go from county to county to review standards and come up with a consensus of what we want in Arizona.  He suggested that some standards are good; some might need revision; some might need to be removed and replaced.  He thought this “very granular” process might take 8-10 months.  He suggested that it isn’t wise for every district to “do its own thing,” because it would create an accountability problem.  How would a parent know how to judge if one school is better than another? 

GW NOTE:  (Mr. Carter’s action was not an approved board action as noted in the March 23, 2015 State Board of Education Minutes.  However, more information on this might be addressed at the SBE’s April meeting.)  I asked Mr. Carter:  “Shouldn’t the SBE establish the goal of K-12 education first?  For example, what about educating students to be independent thinkers”?

When a member of the audience asked if one of the local schools has to give the AZMerit test, he replied that it was a required state test.  However, he hastened to add, AZMerit won’t be used to affect a student’s grade for two more years.  

GW NOTE:  Maybe the reason that AZMerit won’t affect a student’s grade for two more years is because the Common Core (CC) people don’t want parents to revolt, like they are doing in New York.  See Fed Up Parents Revolt against State Standardized Tests.  New York was one of the first states to adopt CC thanks to $750 million in Race To The Top grant money awarded by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to the N.Y. Department of Education.  Shortly after the high stakes exams were first administered, Mary Calamia, social worker and psychotherapist, testified to the New York State Assembly Education Forum, about the overwhelming number of kids who were being sent to her for psychological treatment.  A few months later, the NY Teachers Union issued a statement in Jan. 2014 against Common Core calling for the resignation of John King, the commissioner of the New York Department of Education.  John King resigned a few months ago, and was hired by the U.S. Dept of Ed Secretary Arne Duncan. 

Gina Ray spoke next, stating that she has been aware of Common Core ever since Jan Brewer and Tom Horne signed on to the Standards in early 2010, and she has read every Common Core standard.  At first, she was  in favor of the standards and high stakes testing. 

Then, she began hearing about some of the highly sexualized readings, such as the Bluest Eye and Beloved.  She wasn’t too concerned, because she believed that the local school boards had control over the curriculum.  

Through her own research, she learned that once the Common Core standards were adopted by the Arizona State Board of Education, the local schools discarded their previous textbooks, in favor of curriculum that was “aligned with the Common Core standards.” Ms. Ray stated that she has had many discussions with members of her local Chandler school board, but they say their “hands are tied.”   The Arizona State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the CC Standards and the AZMerit Assessment.  The textbooks are lining up with both.   

Ms. Ray noted that the Gates Foundation has contributed at least $2.3 billion toward developing and promoting Common Core.  Speaking to state legislators in 2009, Bill Gates said:  "When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well.  

GW NOTE: Curriculum depends on textbooks, and the federal government has paid Pearson, the largest book publisher in the world, millions of dollars.  Pearson owns virtually every textbook company in America.  Since 1979 when the USDE was created, the textbook industry has been assured of billions of dollars every time new standards are introduced and then replaced with new standards.  Pearson is “one-stop CCS shopping from standards to curriculum to assessments.  The federal government awarded Pearson $350 million to develop the PARCC assessment.    

Ms. Ray stated that the problems with standards began in 1979 when Pres. Carter created the U.S. Department of Education.  In 2001, Pres. Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into law.    This law mandated that all of America’s public schools would have to achieve the impossible:  100% proficiency in math and reading/language arts by 2014. According to Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Education (USDE) Arne Duncan, more than 80% of schools will be considered ‘failing’ under NCLB." 

GW NOTE:    The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) applied for federal government Race To The Top (RTTT) grant money back in January 2010, with promises from then Gov. Brewer and Superintendent Horne to adopt CC before the standards had been written.  The federal government also would give Arizona relief/waivers from the NCLB law, on one condition: Adopt Common Core.

In September 2011, Senator Marco Rubio wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan, stating:  “I am also concerned that the U.S. Department of Education has created through its contractors, national curriculum materials to support these Common Core standards. Such activities are unacceptable; they violate three existing laws: NCLB, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the General Education Provisions Act. All three laws prohibit the federal government from creating or prescribing national curriculum." 

Ms. Ray stated that, contrary to what you might read on the ADE website, Common Core was never internationally bench-marked.  For 5 years, the national CC website boasted this lie, but after many requests for evidence, they quietly changed the national website to state: “The standards were informed by the best in the country, the highest international standards, and evidence and expertise about educational outcomes.” (Emphasis added.)   It isn’t clear what "informed” means.    

GW NOTE:  The Arizona Dept. of  Education (ADE) apparently didn’t get the memo from the CC people about this change, because their website still contains the old languageThe Standards draw from the best existing standards in the country and are benchmarked to the top performing nations around the world, ensuring that our students are well prepared to compete with their peers abroad for the jobs of the future.”  

Ms. Ray provided a brief overview of how Common Core was originally developed.  It was not written through the combined efforts of classroom teachers and standards experts, but rather by a small group of less than 30 people, mostly Achieve, Inc. staff and consultants, as well as representatives from the textbook and testing industries.  There were no early childhood experts or classroom teachers.  See Who Wrote the Common Core Standards? 

Ms. Ray also noted that Dr. Sandra Stotsky has twice offered Arizona her services (for free) in helping develop English/Language Arts (ELA) standards.  Ms. Stotsky served on the CC Validation Committee, but refused to sign off on them due to their inferiority.  Her credentials take up several pages, so here is a link.  She has  placed a set of standards online, available to any school that wishes to use them.  Click HERE

GW NOTE:  Some years ago, Dr. Stotsky managed the development of the Massachusetts ELA and Math standards, many of which were considered the best in the nation and in the world.  See The Massachusetts Exception.   Unfortunately, a decline began when Gov. Deval Patrick started gaining control of the standards, and then in 2010, adopted Common Core.   Student achievement began to plummet.  See Report:  Worse Than Stagnant.  

Ms. Ray addressed two critical topics:  AZMerit and Data Mining in the State of Arizona. 

AZMERIT.  See Opt Out AZ! Empowering Parents to Opt Out of the AZMerit

Ms. Ray provided a definition of a “high stakes” test as it applies to education:

High stakes testing is so named because the test outcomes are used to make important, often life-altering decisions. Such decisions may include the denial of a high school diploma, the repetition of a grade, the labeling of students and schools in pejorative ways, the withholding of funding, and even the closing of a school. Students who may do well in school all year but fail a high stakes test may be required to attend summer school and take the test again or spend another year in the same grade…  

She gave an example of "high stakes testing" in the professional world:  the Arizona Bar Exam.  The Arizona Bar is the gateway to legal practice.  It is given to adults who usually have 6 years of college level work under their belts and are accustomed to writing research papers, essays, and taking tests  Most adults who take the exam hope they only have to do it once.  

The Arizona State Board of Education awarded the contract to develop the AZMerit exam to A.I.R.  (American Institutes for Research) in Nov. 2014.  This “high stakes” exam will be given to every student in the public school system in grades 3-12 beginning in the Spring of 2015, and every year thereafter.  

A.I.R. is “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.    .

AZMerit is not unique to Arizona.  A.I.R. also created Utah’s SAGE exam and Florida’s Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).  A.I.R. is a partner of Smarter Balanced which is one of two testing consortia (Pearson’s PARCC is the other) that received $330 million from the U.S. Department of Education to create and administer Common Core tests.  So far, the sample test questions are identical to Utah’s SAGE exam and Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).  

AZMerit has never been field-tested.

Arizona teachers had no say in the development of test questions.

Teachers are not allowed to see the AzMerit test questions before, during, or after the exam. Teachers are required to sign a document that states that if they view the test questions, then they are at risk of losing their jobs.

A.I.R. will grade the test.

Test results won’t be reported for 4-6 months.

Even the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction doesn’t know what kind of student information will be collected by A.I.R. in regard to the AZMerit High stakes Test exam

The AZMerit test will cost our state an estimated $19 million with more millions to be spent in subsequent years.  Each test question costs $15k to develop. 

GW NOTE:  Arizona paid Utah $2.223 million, which allows Arizona the use of SAGE materials for one year, with the option to renew for an additional 2 years.

Back in 2014, Dr. Gary Thompson, Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy of the Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center, offered a $100,000 reward for the SAGE Test Validity Reports.  So far, no one can provide any.  He stated, “There is no way in hell that the A.I.R.-produced SAGE/Common Core test measures academic achievement in a valid manner, and quite probably, does not measure academics at all.”

Arizona Department of Education – Student Data Mining

Ms. Ray noted that Arizona has for many years been a participant in the SLDS (State Longitudinal Data System).  This program has “helped propel the successful design, development, implementation, and expansion of K-12 and P-20W (early learning through the workforce) longitudinal data systems.  See About the SLDS Grant Program  

GW NOTE:  As noted on page 11 of ADE’s January 5, 2010, application to the U.S. Dept. of Education (USDE) for Race to the Top grant money, Arizona noted that it had received $6.5 million from the USDE for its SLDS program.   Arizona was awarded another $5 million, in 2012, from the federal government, for Arizona’s K-12 Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Project.   

Ms. Ray has asked various ADE staff about their collection of student Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and was repeatedly advised that Arizona only collects aggregate information, not Personally Identifiable Information (PII).  And it was asserted to her that Arizona was not sharing this data with any other states.

However, stated Ms. Ray, research has revealed the ADE is not only collecting Personally Identifiable Information on Arizona’s students, but is also releasing PII to external research “partners.”  Third parties may obtain a Personally Identifiable Information Data Request form from ADE if they are seeking “student level data and/or Personally Identifiable Information.”  The ADE also provides a “handbook” which accompanies the data request titled Requesting Personally Identifiable Information or Data from the Arizona Department of Education.  The instructions state, “Any person or organization, including doctoral and master’s degree candidates, university faculty, independent researchers, and private and non-profit organization who wishes to use personally identifiable information of any type, must submit a data request packet.” 

Requests for Personally Identifiable Information from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) are reviewed by a Data Request Review Board.  The identities of the board members are not revealed.  The board’s quarterly meetings are not open to the public

This egregious situation must not be tolerated by the citizens of Arizona!

Ms. Ray also advised that parents may not be aware that the schools can obtain highly sensitive information from their children, without being notified.  This is because of some quiet changes made by the USDE, and signed via President Obama’s Executive Order (EO 12866), gutting the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  This change broadened the number of entities that are allowed to obtain a child’s PII.  It also greatly expanded the definition of PII, so that it includes biometric data, such as biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include fingerprints, retina and iris patterns, voiceprints, DNA sequence, facial characteristics, etc.  All without a parent’s knowledge or approval.   

GW NOTE:  See Parent Spring + Opt Out America Form    

At the conclusion of both presentations, a few issues were addressed by the audience.

In response, Ms. Ray gave an example of how Common Core suggests that English/Language Arts classes include lessons in American history.  Her own child was given an assignment to identify “complaints against his school.”  This was based on his English teacher’s trivializing the Declaration of Independence, giving her shorthand version of one of America’s most sacred Founding documents, referring to it as merely a list of “complaints” against the King of England. 

Mr. Carter stated that this is a local school district issue.  Curriculum is a matter of choice by local school districts.  He gave as an example the adoption of Beyond Textbooks as an example of local control of the curriculum.  

GW NOTE:  Please refer to the earlier GW note which discusses why the adoption of Beyond Textbooks by over 90 school districts is a terrible but real example of how local school districts are violating the rights of citizens and parents.  

Ms. Anita Christy advised that the architect behind Common Core is David Coleman, along with a handful of others who shared his vision of what education ought to be.  Now, Coleman is the president of the College Board busily rewriting the SAT and ACT to conform to Common Core.  She also identified several teachers’ unions that have taken a stand against Common Core, including the largest:  NEA, and second largest: AFT, as well as the New York Teachers Union and the Chicago Teachers’ Union.  (The woman who penned the Chicago teachers Resolution against Common Core is Karen Lewis, a Marxist Socialist who is considered Left of Rahm Emanuel.  She wrote: "The Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy."  A Marxist wrote that!)

It’s important to understand why the unions  don’t like Common Core.  Their problem is that they didn’t have a "seat at the table," and teachers are being evaluated based on assessments in which they have no role.  The unions have learned that they no longer control the futures of teachers.  The federal government does.  See Teachers Unions and the Common Core.  

Even the Washington State Democratic Party passed a Resolution opposing Common Core.  

It’s also worthy to note this very recent article that appeared in Al Jazeera America: David Coleman’s Plan to Ruin Education:  The Architect of Common Core Must be Stopped.  

None of the organizations previously mentioned fit the "right wing tinfoil hat-wearing teabagger" stereotype that many Arizona legislators, leaders, and media types say oppose Common Core.   

They’ve only had 5 years to figure it out.

See Also:

$100,000 Reward for Common Core Test Validity Reports

High Stakes Testing

Common Core Opt Out Movement Accelerates

Parents all over U.S. ‘opting out’ of standardized student testing  

Fred Grimm:  Florida Failed the Tests, and Flunked the Kids 

Florida school board makes history, opts out of Common Core

“High stakes testing failures have high stakes consequences.”  

Parents Against the Common Core